A Special Pain Called Growth

My best friend at university had this massive, daunting, 400 page long astrology boo. It had us hunched over with wide eyes and exclamations of “that’s so accurate!” on many pizza-fuelled sleepless nights. Each page of this book was titled a different date of the year, followed by a detailed explanation of what people born on that date were like. How they behaved with friends, with lovers, with themselves. Their strengths and weaknesses. Their deepest darkest desires.

We would consult The Book every time one of us would meet someone new or crush on yet another film or photography major with swoopy hair and a nonchalant attitude. We would flip excitedly through the 365 days until we reached their date of birth, then sit there in mesmerised silence as we discovered how that half Italian guy had insecurities about his future or the annoyingly loud girl from our seminar really loved being in love.

The Book confirmed that my best friend wanted freedom above all, and that my sister got bored easily and was happiest when travelling. It confirmed that I felt everything more strongly than the average person. Both happiness and sadness hit me like a metaphorical train of emotions. It had said that my mind tends to be a black hole that feeds on sadness. How dramatic, I know. But not entirely inaccurate.

6 years later, it still feels like I have to dig nails, teeth and knees to climb out of that hole sometimes. It has admittedly gotten a whole lot easier now that I’ve chosen to surround myself with people who deserve the love I have to give. But the process of elimination has been a tough hill to climb.

It’s a little bit like losing a limb. It’s like waking up one day and finding out that your pinky is gone. And all of a sudden, you’re realising all the vital things you hadn’t realised your pinky helped you do, like hold your phone up while texting or hit the enter button on your keyboard or scratch your ear or reach the inside of your lipstick tube for that last lick of colour.

And while you can still fully function without your pinky, it still takes effort to sever your longing for the part of you that you were so unawarely dependent on.

My lost limbs have been in the shape of unworthy men, most of whom had terrible taste in fashion. They’ve been jobs that felt comfortable but didn’t get me where I wanted to go. They’ve been friendships that grew in different directions.

My limbs have been replaced with boundaries and, more recently, love. Not only towards myself, but surprisingly towards those severed limbs too (The Book had also revealed that I was a woman who held grudges). Just like my best friend’s magical Book, the people and things I let go of, or the ones who let go of me, didn’t reveal anything new about who I was as a person.

What they did was shed a spotlight on the things I already knew. Some have been positive, but others have been like fluorescent supermarket lighting on a sleep-deprived face.

And while it may sound like a cliché to say that our pain and discomfort make us stronger, I think we all still need reminding from time to time. There’s nothing wrong with discovering the negatives about yourself. If anything, it’s the only guaranteed way to move forward.

It doesn’t hurt to recruit the help of the people who truly care about you, like my best friend, who values her freedom more than anything, or my sister, who’s happiest with her wings wide spread.

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